Image as Embodiment:
A Research Symposium
at the Sainsbury Research Unit
for the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas
University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
9 – 10 November 2007
Conceiving images in their widest sense, this symposium asked how and what do different material forms embody in the world? While diverse types of images (‘artworks’, devotional objects, photographs, monuments, etc.) possess different ontological statuses, they are united by the fact that they are each embodiments of various sets of social relations, practices, desires and ideologies. We invited scholars working within anthropology, archaeology and art history to explore issues implicated in the notion of images as embodiments. Whether dealing with the miniature or the monumental, the symposium sought to consider embodiment as a process (cyclical or terminal) situated in time and space. Given the socially and culturally infused nature of our material world, the strategies of embodiment are significant. They are affective decisions that impact the way images are engaged with, and how images themselves act upon us, channelling behaviour in both the short and long-term. The following questions and issues, amongst others, were considered at this symposium.
• Examining embodiment as process we are interested in considering what intangible qualities are substantiated and transformed when images are wrapped, carved, bound, modified and or collected?
• Once made what is it that images do?
• What is released and made possible through the destruction, dissolution and decay of an image?
• What are the culturally specific aspects of these intentions and qualities of embodiment?
• What is the significance of different materials and forms in the composition of images?
• What are the social effects of the different qualities of surfaces (e.g., burnishing versus incision in pottery)?
• What perspectives on the relationship between persons and things emerge when taking these aspects of images as processes of embodiment?
• How do different disciplines help in our understanding of embodiment?
The aim of this symposium was to develop a series of ongoing topical workshops between academic disciplines and regional specialisations where the focus is on the sensual matter of our material world. This symposium was a part of a new initiative by the Sainsbury Research Unit for the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas at University of East Anglia to gather scholars working in anthropology, archaeology and art history to examine jointly key themes in the study of ‘art’ and material culture.
Invited Speakers Included:
Suzanne Preston Blier (Harvard University, Cambridge, USA)
Stephen Hugh-Jones (University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK)
Timothy Ingold (University of Aberdeen)
Christian Kaufmann (Basel, Switzerland)
Pierre Lemonnier (CNRS, Marseille, France)
Howard Morphy (Australia National University, Canberra, Australia)
Ruth Phillips (Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada)
Allen F. Roberts (University of California, Los Angeles, USA)
Mike Rowlands (University College, London, UK)
Ann-Christine Taylor (Musée du Quai Branly, Paris, France)
The timetable for the two days of the symposium is available here.
The symposium was part of the new Groupe De Recherche International (GDRI) entitled ‘Anthropology and History of the Arts’ hosted at the Musée du Quai Branly. Funding for this event was provided in part by UEA’s Alumni Association fund.
SRU Symposium coordinator: Joshua A. Bell.